Doctor in Indian PPE row bundled off to mental unit
A DOCTOR who was suspended after raising concerns about India’s shortage of face masks has been arrested and detained at a psychiatric hospital.
Dr Sudhakar Rao, a hospital anaesthetist with 20 years’ experience, was shown being arrested by police in a series of dramatic videos.
The images, which have been shared widely on social media and WhatsApp, capture a chain of events on Saturday in the southern city of Visakhapatnam, where Dr Rao lives and works.
He is first seen shirtless, sitting inside his car by the side of the road, and screaming at police.
In another video, he is lying on the road with his hands tied behind his back as a constable hits him with a baton. Police said the officer has been suspended and an investigation will be held, the BBC reported.
In the final video, officers are seen bundling the doctor into an auto rickshaw in front of bewildered onlookers.
Before he was taken away, Dr Rao told local journalists who had gathered that he had been stopped and forced out of the car by the policemen.
‘They snatched my phone and wallet. They hit me,’ he said.
Social media users and opposition parties condemned the state government’s handling of the situation and accused the police of excessive force.
Dr Rao made national headlines in April after revealing that doctors were not being given adequate protective gowns and masks to treat Covid-19 patients.
‘We are told to use the same mask for 15 days before asking for a fresh mask. How can we treat patients risking our lives?’ he asked television reporters. The government ordered an inquiry-but also suspended Dr Rao. Officials claimed that by going public instead of filing a formal complaint, he had damaged the morale of health care workers. Days later, Dr Rao released a video in which he apologised. The government did not respond.
Dr Rao’s family allege that he has been harassed since speaking out. His mother, Kaveri Rao, told BBC Telugu that he had no mental health issues. ‘He is a reputed doctor,’ she said. ‘But he has been facing abuse since the day he raised those concerns.’ The news follows reports of Indian doctors facing a backlash after speaking out about shortages of PPE or lack of preparation in hospitals.
Shirtless: Dr Sudhakar Rao is held down and his hands are tied by police. The medic had spoken out about lack of face masks in hospitals